BY JAMES BEMBRIDGE
Far from ‘never again’, seventy years on from the Holocaust, a repeat of its horrors seems all too conceivable. Although Britain has pushed what is now one of Europe’s most racist and antisemitic parties into near insignificance, the question remains: for how many was opposing antisemitism a motivating factor?
As its scars fade into the dermis of history, the fear is, so too shall the Holocaust’s significance.
Five percent of Britons don’t even believe these horrors occurred and many more that its claims are greatly exaggerated. There is the feeling that Europe’s obsession with Israel’s foreign policy is a way to assuage guilt for the hand they played in the need for its conception. Perhaps Israel’s PR problem wouldn’t be so severe if the anti-Israel propaganda from Hamas wasn’t to be outdone by efforts from our very own BBC. Any coverage on the conflict depicts the Israelis as warmongering racists and the Palestinians as forlorn children in search of nothing more than acceptance. Take this video as just one example:
The descriptors attributed to the Israeli Government are ‘right-wing’, ‘nationalist’ and ‘hardline’, whereas Palestine’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is simply described as someone who has led past peace talks with Israel. They don’t think to mention that it was Israel who initiated said peace talks or Abbas who declined them. Nor that Abbas’ remarks on the Holocaust not being caused by antisemitism but by Jewish banking activity could also be denigrated as ‘right-wing‘ or ‘hardline’.
There is the casual bias of the BBC and then there is downright gaslighting of linking the Holocaust with the Israel–Palestine conflict, as reporter, Orla Guerin, did in her recent report for the BBC News at 10. Despite calls from former BBC television executive, Danny Cohen, the BBC refused to apologise for this latest instance showing Guerin’s bias.
The truth is that an unspoken and uninvited rule has entered British society which now permeates her broadcast media: not all racism is equal.
What may be called liberal civility or ‘PC culture’ has now adopted the dangerous logic of cultural relativism. It’s not written in any workplace compliance manual, but the received wisdom is that prejudice towards Jews can never be prejudice of the same magnitude as is experienced by those of African or Asian descent. Everything is seen through the prism of oppressors and the oppressed. Jeremy Corbyn could never bring himself to unilaterally condemn antisemitism; indeed, any talk of it always had to have Islamophobia tagged on. This phenomenon was picked up on by Spiked editor, Brendan O’Neill, in an episode of BBC’s Politics Live, where he saw Labour activist, Owen Jones, commit the same offence:
‘I find it fascinating that people like Owen cannot mention antisemitism without also mentioning Islamophobia. It’s like a tic they have.‘
Cultural relativism also goes a long way to explain the bias against Israel.
Israeli representatives are often asked by British journalists ‘but why are the casualties so disproportional?’, as if, in the spirit of egalitarianism, Israel should lower her defences and sacrifice a few of her own. One may say that’s an equality of outcome goal too far.
Whilst antisemitism is now so synonymous with Labour that it may as well be a policy, it is especially cruel when expressed in the form of Holocaust denial.
Labour candidate, Maria Carroll, was found not only to be a Holocaust denier, but also to have set up a group that coached fellow Holocaust deniers on how to‘beat accusations of antisemitism’.
Not all Labour candidates deny the holocaust happened, but rather deny that it was a crime to begin with. Labour candidate, Aysegul Gurbuz, wrote on Twitter: ‘If it wasn’t for my man Hitler, these Jews would have wiped out Palestine years ago.’ Thank goodness she added the qualifier ‘not hating on Jews by the way’, her praise of Hitler’s genocide of them could have sounded pretty awful otherwise….
Although the lack of self-awareness in Aysegul’s post may seem comical, to treat it as such is to ignore its significance. Asugul went on to write an article in the Independent explaining her remarks and it can’t be said that she was lacking in humility, honesty or indeed sincerity. She talks about the closed Muslim community which she grew up in being rife with antisemitism, something that Mehdi Hasan has called the ‘banality of Muslim anti-Semitism’ within some sections of Muslim communities.
People are quick to cynically dismiss claims from anyone guilty of antisemitic prejudice of ‘going on a journey’, but without sounding like a cultural relativist loon, context must be taken into consideration. If it can be said of white working class children, dragged up in council estates by feckless parents, as ‘not standing a chance’ of leading a productive life; then surely it can be said of Asugul that she didn’t stand a chance, growing up in the environment that she did, to not become antisemitic?
Interfaith relations are all well and good, but voices like Asuguls are vital in combating any remaining prejudice that lingers in some sections of Muslim communities. She ended her piece by saying ‘I hope that by people like me telling their own stories, communities like mine will be able to move beyond our assumptions to a greater understanding of one another.’ – who can disagree with that? It should be noted that two of the most prominent journalists who are tackling Labour’s antisemitism are Muslim – Maajid Nawaz and Oz Katerji.
Perhaps more concerning than Labour’s out-and-out racist MPs – such as Chris Williamson – are the so-called moderates who didn’t see antisemitism as an issue significant enough to sacrifice their £76k salaries for. Jess Phillips would find the word ‘humbug‘ to be something worth giving near-incoherent screechings in Parliament for, and yet view antisemitism as something that is merely ‘disheartening’. There has also been a faction of hardcore remainers whose logic in the run-up to the general election went something like this: ‘Yes, Labour are a threat to Jews, but Brexit is a threat to us all – so vote Labour!’
Barring a poll on the subject, we never will know how big a role antisemitism played in Labour receiving its worst election defeat since 1987. What could be said is that left-wing antisemitism often goes hand in hand with anti-Western rhetoric and that is something which Labour canvassers heard time and time again on the doorstep as being an issue for Corbyn. Little did Corbyn know that in the Andrew Neil interview, when he incessantly squawked ‘can I finish?’, in the eyes of the public, he already was.
Far from excusing right-wing reactionaries, a robust defence of the right for Israel to exist and defend herself, quells the fascism found on the extremities on the left and right.
It should never be said that such a defence, if properly expressed, comes at the expense of the Palestinian people. Those who equate Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the Holocaust would do well to study it, as would we all if we are to rid ourselves of the complacent notion that globalism is evidence of Europe having outgrown such prejudice.
To spread awareness of the Holocaust, please share far and wide the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust.